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Inventing Collateral Damage

Civilian Casualties, War, and Empire

Edited by Stephen J. Rockel and Rick Halpern  

Inventing Collateral Damage
  • Paperback / softback

The term collateral damage, a euphemism for civilian casualty, came into usage during the Vietnam War and over several decades became entrenched in U.S. armed forces jargon. But long before the phrase was coined there were non-combatant victims of wars.

Emerging from a major international conference on the subject, Inventing Collateral Damage is a collection of excellent and varied studies of civilian casualty through history: in early modern Europe, 18th- and 19th-century North America, colonial and post-colonial conflicts, the world wars of the 20th century, and the present day.

The collection includes an impressive historical interpretation of the topic by Stephen Rockel and a sensitive conclusion by the noted historian Natalie Zemon Davis.

  • Paperback / softback, 372 pages
  • ISBN 9781897071120
  • Published November 2009


In this pioneering collection … the case studies of collateral damage to civilians … are uniformly excellent. … A particularly noteworthy feature of the collection is its useful analysis and sensible employment of normative standards concerning the rules of war. Highly recommended.

Choice Magazine

We may prefer to act as though the crimes that war inflicts on civilians are too horrible to consider, but–as this book correctly insists–those crimes are too horrible to ignore. Here is a book that challenges us to move beyond the moral fog of war’s euphemisms and cover stories.

– Norman Solomon, author, War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death

It is often stated that it is only recently that civilians have comprised the majority of casualties in war. This wide-ranging and stimulating collection shows that civilian harm has a long history, especially in colonial wars. The volume explores the many ways in which civilians have been affected, and is a valuable addition to the literature.

– Martin Shaw, Research Professor of International Relations, University of Sussex

This book sets the standard for scholarship on collateral damage. With the issue on the front pages every day in reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan, this is a must-read. It provides a spectacular array of rich historical cases wrapped in astute analysis. Read it, teach it, discuss it, dispute it.

– Neil Smith, Professor of Anthropology, City University of New York (CUNY)

Inventing Collateral Damage is at once a rich and immensely varied exploration of civilian suffering throughout the history of war and at the same time a close examination of the meaning of the current euphemism which gives the collection its title. Rarely has the violence of empire and civil war been so succinctly and powerfully summarized. Yet it also explores, in Timothy Brook’s sensitive essay, “The Deliverer’s Dilemma,” the reaction of those who believe they come as liberators to the terrible destruction they bring with them.

– Marilyn B. Young, Professor of History, NYU, and co-editor of Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth-Century History

Table of Contents

Introduction Collateral Damage: A Comparative History
Stephen J. Rockel
Part I Non-combatants in Civil Wars: France and the USA
Chapter 1 "Only the Sack and the Noose for Its Citizens": Atrocities and Civilian Casualties during the French Wars of Religion
Brian Sandberg
Chapter 2 An American War of Incarceration: Guerrilla Warfare, Occupation, and Imprisonment in the American South, 1863–65
Scott Reynolds Nelson
Part II Collateral Damage in the Partition of Africa
Chapter 3 Non-combatants and War: The Unexplored Factor in the Conquest of the Zulu Kingdom
Jeff Guy
Chapter 4 Between Law and Inhumanity: Canadian Troops and British Responses to Guerrilla Warfare During the South African War
Chris Madsen
Chapter 5 Colonial Conquest and the Struggle for the Presence of the Colonial State in German East Africa, 1885–1903
Michael Pesek
Part III Collateral Damage and the Culture of Imperialism
Chapter 6 Progress and Collateral Damage
Robert Gregg
Chapter 7 "Elegant and Dignified Military Operations in the Present Age": The Imperfect Invisibility of Collateral Damage in Late-Nineteenth-Century Metropolitan Illustrated Magazines
Tom Gretton
Chapter 8 The Deliverer's Dilemma: Japan's Invasion of China, 1937–38
Timothy Brook
Chapter 9 Criminals, Heroes, Martyrs: A Backward Caste Remembers the Colonial Past
Smita Tewari Jassal
Part IV Sexual Violence and War
Chapter 10 Sexual Violence in War: Mennonite Refugees during the Second World War
Marlene Epp
Part V Bombing and Civilian Casualties
Chapter 11 The War against Women and Children
Sven Lindqvist
Chapter 12 "Unworthy" Afghan Bodies: "Smarter" U.S. Weapons Kill More Innocents
Marc W. Herold
Natalie Zemon Davis

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